DAMASCUS, SYRIA (11:20 P.M.) – With its popularity reaching an all-time low, Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (Syrian Al-Qaeda branch) is changing its strategy to win hearts and minds in Idlib, considered opposition heartland.
In a brand new propaganda video, HTS initially complained about the corruption of rival factions on the Syrian battlefield, then proceeded to emphasize its role in cracking down on alleged ISIS sleeper cells in the province.
The footage features raids on ISIS hideouts in Idlib city and the town of Sarmin. Some of the material is graphic; viewer discretion is therefore advised:
According to HTS’ media wing, Al-Qaeda’s security forces have raided 64 ISIS bases and arrested 170 Islamic State members in 2017.
Once close allies, the two rival jihadist factions have been at odds since early 2014 when ISIS broke off ties to Al-Qaeda only to declare their own caliphate barely half a year later.
Some 300 ISIS sleeper cells are said to have escaped Idlib through the Turkish border in recent months.
Meanwhile, rumours of a looming invasion by the Turkish Army remain persistent and ongoing. The goal of such an Ankara-led offensive would be to depose HTS which has consolidated its power over the summer.